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California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that over 90% of eligible California cities and counties have signed on to a historic $26 billion settlement with the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen – and Johnson & Johnson over the companies’ role in creating and fueling the nationwide opioid crisis.

Attorney General Bonta, along with the attorneys general of North Carolina, Tennessee, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas, led negotiations of the up to $26 billion settlement.

In California, over 400 cities and counties – representing 97% of the state’s population – have signed on to the settlement.

When finalized, the settlement will resolve the claims of both states and local governments across the country, including the nearly 4,000 that have filed lawsuits in federal and state courts. The settlement also requires significant industry changes that will help prevent this type of crisis from ever happening again.

The settlement comes as a result of investigations by state attorneys general into whether the three distributors fulfilled their legal duty to refuse to ship opioids to pharmacies that submitted suspicious drug orders and whether Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid drugs.

Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson will have until February 25, 2022, to decide whether to move forward with the settlement. If all parties move forward, the first payments will be made by the distributors in April, and Johnson & Johnson in July.

In addition to the settlement, Attorney General Bonta continues to fight to hold Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family accountable for their contribution to the ongoing opioid crisis. In December, a district court reversed a New York bankruptcy court’s confirmation of the company’s bankruptcy reorganization plan.

Today’s deal also comes on the heels of a previously announced $573 million opioid settlement with McKinsey & Company, which will bring over $59 million to California for opioid abatement.

And Reuters reports that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and three of the nation’s largest drug wholesalers and distributors have agreed to pay $589 million in settlement after hundreds of native tribes accused the companies of fueling the opioid crisis in their communities.

The three pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen Corp., and McKesson Corp.- will pay more than $439 million in settlement over seven years. The Janssen-owned Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $150 million over two years.

This follows a 2019 lawsuit in which the drug distributors agreed to pay $75 million to resolve similar claims made by Cherokee Nation, one of the largest Cherokee tribes recognized by the federal government.

A 2016 report released by the National Congress of American Indians found that American Indians suffered the highest rate (8.4 overdose deaths per 100,000 people) of opioid overdoses, followed by whites (7.9 overdose deaths per 100,000 people).

All 574 federally recognized tribes will be able to receive money from the settlements even if they had not filed the lawsuits, according to Tara Sutton, an attorney for the tribes, in a Feb. 1 statement to The Wall Street Journal.